By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Outlier’s Collective near Gillespie Field is one of five legal dispensaries that will be allowed to expand to include recreational, edible and drinkable cannabis products

October 30, 2021 (East County of San Diego) – Five medical marijuana dispensaries that were legally permitted to open in unincorporated areas of San Diego County were closed after supervisors in 2017 repealed legalization and allowed existing dispensaries to stay open only until April 2022. But now the current supervisory board has voted to remove the sunset clause and allow the five legal dispensaries to continue operating, as well as expand up to 10,000 square feet to add recreational cannabis products including edibles and beverages.

The ordinance does not allow new dispensaries to open, although a broader overhaul of county policies is under consideration that could ultimately legalize other cannabis-based businesses over the next two years. For now, the ordinance ensures that consumers will continue to have access to legal medical marijuana, as well as recreational use of marijuana, which is legal in California, without having to travel long distances to buy it.

Supervisors Joel Anderson, Nathan Fletcher, Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas voted for the change; Supervisor Jim Desmond voted against.

Desmond said he had never been a fan of dispensaries in unincorporated areas, but specifically objected to the fivefold expansion being exempt from environmental review, as allowed by the ‘arrangement. Calling the measure a “Pandora’s box,” he said such an expansion could impact parking, traffic, water use, greenhouse gas emissions and the safety of neighbors. . He also said allowing such an exemption for cannabis companies and not for others was unfair.

Supervisor Anderson previously introduced language to add funds for increased funding to enforce the closure of illegal marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county, as illegal pot shops have been a significant source of crime. serious, unlike the five legal dispensaries.

The second reading consolidates a vote earlier this month to approve the new ordinance, as staff recommended in their letter to supervisors.

The ruling also removes a restriction that limited marijuana growers to using only municipal drinking water for irrigation. Under the new rules, they can also use local groundwater. The five legal dispensaries can also sell branded products.

In his testimony on October 6, when the first reading was approved, Tony Cio, owner of Releaf Meds in Ramona, made this point in his favor.

“Illegal stores have an unfair advantage,” he told supervisors. “They don’t pay taxes and don’t have regulatory expenses. Illegal stores, I believe, are the root cause of a lot of the problems we see in the county. Our legal facilities offer a secure alternative.

But critics have raised concerns about allowing the sale of products such as cookies, candies or sodas that may contain high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

“There is clear research linking high potency THC with addiction and mental health issues,” said KC Strang, executive director of the San Marcos Prevention Coalition. “We are concerned about the contradiction that flavored tobacco is harmful – whereas flavored marijuana is good?” “

Julian resident Jean Duffy expressed his fear of impaired drivers on winding mountain roads, saying: “Putting stoned drivers on the roads will only lead to more accidents and deaths.”